Oil and gas rule changes target more productive forests – USDA.gov

Posted by Andrew S. Avitt, USDA Forest Service, Office of Communications in Forestry

Sep 02, 2020

The proposed changes to Forest Service regulations aim to better serve potential tenants of oil and gas development while improving the productivity of national forests and grasslands. (iStockphoto)

As a multipurpose agency, the USDA Forest Service strives to balance the many uses and benefits Americans expect from their national forests and grasslands.

National forests provide habitat for wildlife, wild places, and recreational opportunities where people can enjoy the outdoors. They also provide a sustainable supply of wood, pasture for livestock, as well as abundant mineral and energy resources, which support all rural communities and fuel the global economy. In fact, the energy and mineral resources of national forests produced $ 2.9 billion in raw materials in 2019.

However, applying for an oil or gas lease on national forests and grasslands can take years. The process is often bogged down by inefficiencies and unclear requirements, resulting in a substantial backlog.

Under the leadership of Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the Forest Service has proposed changes that would address this backlog and improve the productivity of national forests and grasslands.

“Updating our oil and gas resource regulations will help us become more efficient, while improving customer service,” said Vicki Christiansen, Chief Forestry Officer. “The rule would promote the responsible development of our country’s vast energy resources while preserving the surface resources of national forests and grasslands.”

“What we’re doing is revising the regulations that haven’t been updated since the 1990s,” said David Rosenkrance, acting director of mineral management and geology for the Forest Service. “We are clarifying the relationship between the Forest Service and oil and gas operators and providing more efficient timelines and processes.”

So far, multiple decision points in the leasing process have created confusion and increased wait times for mining and energy development without any additional benefit to the environment. The proposed changes would address these issues and create greater coherence between the Forest Service and the Land Management Office of the Department of the Interior, who work closely together to process lease applications and work with lease operators. .

“Sometimes it’s just as minor as changing the terminology to be consistent,” Rosenkrance said. “This clarifies the operator and what to do.”

Rosenkrance added that while the proposed changes will clarify points of confusion in existing processes, the Forest Service’s commitment to public participation remains unchanged.

In addition to supporting jobs in energy and mining development, leases on national forests and grasslands generate income from royalties and other payments on what the lease produces. These payments amounted to nearly $ 298 million in 2019, with half going to the states where the rental transaction takes place. 40% of the revenue goes to the National Reclamation Fund, which supports irrigation and other water resources projects in the United States. The remaining 10% goes to the US Treasury.

Together, these efforts aim to better realize the enormous potential of national forests and grasslands. By taking these steps to enhance its multipurpose mission, the Forest Service hopes to further contribute to the country’s economic recovery while keeping forests healthy, resilient and productive, now and in the future.

Flowers in front of an oil pipeline
Mining and energy development of national forests produced raw materials valued at around $ 2.9 billion in 2019 and generated nearly $ 298 million in revenues and royalties. The proposed changes to the regulation of oil and gas leases will support the responsible development of the national abundant energy resources of national forests and grasslands. (iStockphoto)

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